Central State to play rivalry match at Ohio Stadium
This Saturday is Classic for Columbus, the first annual football game between the Central State University Marauders and the Kentucky State Thorobreds. The game between the two historically black universities kicks off at Ohio Stadium at 3:00 p.m. Chris Welter of WYSO spoke with John Pace, President and CEO of the event, and discovered that the Classic for Columbus is more than just football.
Transcription (modified slightly for length and clarity):
Chris: How was the Classic for Columbus born?
John: In March and April of this year, when it became clear that the hospitality industry, hotels, restaurants and entertainment were going to suffer greatly from Covid, some business leaders and I started talking about the post-Covid-19 economic recovery. and what it might look like. As the discussion went on, we turned to tourism, we turned to trade and economic development. The classic was brought up because it had enjoyed great success in the past in Cincinnati and Cleveland. Columbus makes logistical sense and is one of the fastest growing cities in the country. And Ohio Stadium is a mythical place. Any athlete, especially a soccer player, would love to play horseshoe.
Chris: So why the central state and why the state of Kentucky?
John: It is one of the oldest rivalry games. Both are close to central Ohio, which makes sense, and the fact that they both have large alumni groups in Ohio. So it will be a great and exciting game. Lots of rivalry, but a lot of work together too.
Chris: But Classic for Columbus is more than just football, isn’t it?
John: Interestingly, football is not mentioned in our assignment. The mission of the organization is to promote education, economic development and diversity while raising funds for higher education institutions and scholarships. We do this through several community partners: fraternities, sororities, service organizations, civic and social organizations, government organizations. The game just offers a number of advantages. First of all, it offers an opportunity for young people from disadvantaged neighborhoods who are exposed to so many negative images about their community and about themselves. It gives them the opportunity to come and see a stadium filled with accomplished and positive African Americans who can serve as role models and mentors. It really brings the whole community together to really celebrate and validate some of these little-known HBCU student-athletes.
Chris: So tell me more about the educational events this weekend?
John: Before the game, starting at 9 a.m., we will have the Battelle College Career and Community Fair, sponsored by the City of Columbus. Young people can go out and they will be able to visit more than 20 historically black colleges and universities. Then there will be around 40 employers, some interviewing and hiring locally. Some of the youngsters who will be coming to Ohio State on Saturday to see this game, it might have been difficult to attract them to an educational event unless it was football and culture and entertainment. Then there is the diversity factor. The classic is a fun event. It’s meaningful, but it’s fun. You can bring people together for fun, sport, music. The classic offers all of these things. So it helps us bring community together across race, socioeconomic status, religion and even politics.
Chris: And you’ll also give someone $ 25,000 as a down payment for a house, right?
John: There will be a Financial Literacy Homeownership Seminar just before the game. We know that homeownership and real estate ownership is one of the most popular routes to wealth. But here in the African American community and the Brown community, some people are not as knowledgeable as we should be about this. We want to provide this information, so we decided to create some excitement by donating twenty-five thousand dollars.
Chris: So what about the battle of the bands?
John: Groups are a staple and focal point of any historically black college and scholar classics. Part of the marching band experience is the drum line, where the drum sections compete against each other. There’s going to be a group battle in high school, groups from all over Ohio: the schools in Columbus City, Euclid, Maple Heights. So, you’ll also want to go out and see the groups battle in high school. It’s a unique experience: great musicians, great dancers, great choreography, high energy. This is what you will see. The invitation we extend to the whole community, not just African Americans, but the whole community, is to experience college football in the African American tradition with great food, people friendly people and uninterrupted entertainment.
Environmental reporter Chris Welter is a member of the corps for Report for America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms.